14/12/2011 by Siddiqui Fayesal
We’ve all read or seen stories. Good stories. Bad stories. Long stories. Short stories. Stories with a drab ending and stories with a twist in the last dialogue. Stories where the lead is the “Hero” and stories where the Hero is actually the villain (???). Stories where the “Hero” dies and where the “Heroine” finds out the the father of her unborn child is actually her husband’s/boyfriend’s brother/friend/uncle or whatever!
But one thing about these stories is pretty much static. They almost always, 9.999 out of 10, follow the rigid protocol where the main actor is always aligned to the main story! The number of such main actors are fixed before hand. they may range from 1 or 2 to 9 or10. But they’re always fixed by their progenitors. And more often than not the characters follow the story conceived. My personal opinion is that in any good book or a movie the characters bring to life even the most ordinary of stories! For me its always the characters who get a ring side audience of my cynical self compared to the story. I’m not saying that stories are not important. Hell, they’re important. If not for them the characters are worthless! But can you imagine “Wuthering Heights” without a fire cracker Catherine or the somber, dark but alluring Heathcliff?
No. The book wouldn’t’ve been worth as much if not for the characters. Its not only the good ol’ classics that I speak about. Take Harry Potter. Without the gigantic (gay or not) but humble personality of Albus Dumbledore; the inquisitive and the curious bravery of Harry; the irrepressible intellect of Hermione or the loyalty of Ronald the book wouldn’t be what it turned out to be!
So what I’m trying to say is that how about a story where the character’s importance keep shifting. If in one scene the “Hero” is the “main” character he need not be the main character after a few pages! The importance , or uniqueness, would be shifted upon a rather “unimportant” character who suddenly takes up the challenge of carrying the story upon his not-so-important shoulders! The story evolves and aligns itself upon the path taken by the character. His whereabouts define the setting of the story; his ideas define the stories direction! It would be an amazing work of art for the writer who does this and pulls it off with aplomb.
For example, take a scene where the “Hero” is running behind a chain snatcher busy playing the hero. He subsequently succeeds. Instead of taking the story forward by showing a graphic make out session with this victim of the snatching why cannot we follow that nondescript bald pot bellied by-stander who the “Hero” pushes aside in his final endeavor to nab the robber?
In my version, the story’d probably go like this: The pot bellied guy is a porter working at the local railway station and he recognised the snatcher as his wife’s far away nephew who had ran away from his hometown in the hilly regions of Rajasthan four years back. Now, what I’d do was i’d follow the baldy all the way home and demonstrated what was going through in his head! How he’d tell his wife, How he thought she’d react, whether she’d want him to help him out, the works.
And, after the sequence with his wife i’d get an eavesdropper from the nearby shanty involved. the curious moron would hear it all and move towards his circle of friends to loosen his tongue (yes, guys do this a lot!!!). The next scene would involve a young guy from the same circle of friends walking away from his father, who is a fast friend of the “eavesdropper”, and running away to a lonely shack above the towns only bar.
Lo! He’d meet the robber there and tell him that his aunt lives close by. The guy would expect the robber, who’d probably go by the name of “Rameswaraj”, to be elated but Nooooooo… He’s agitated!
I’m not gonna complete the sequence for the obvious reason that I wanna use this some place else:-p
Anyway, by doing this I agree that the story would be fragmented. But i’m not here to tell you a story. I’m here to recreate! And anyway, as a story teller and a writer it is my JOB to construct a fine, but strong, thread of coordination between the characters and story. It is part of my business to seam the fragmented and crude material into a smooth trousseau. As a writer it is my priority and duty to make a story out of the characters and not to make characters run upon the story!
There are many who will either say that what i’m saying is crap and there will be some who would say that there is a very very minor difference between the two. I agree with the latter and I don’t have anything to say the former. Now, to the people who say that there is a very fine difference i’d say yes, to some extent. The outcome is totally writer based. The intention with which the writer has penned those words in his story is the deciding factor whether he has written a character-centric story or a situation-centric story!
If the characters in a character-centric story are not sharp and edgy the reader would not realise that the story was written for the character and NOT vice versa! And if the characters in situation based story are so cunningly written that they are super imposed upon the story then the reader would be sure that the story was written for the characters and NOT vice versa. Its totally dependant on the craft and the cunning and the perfection of the writer to make his readers accept and like and think exactly what he wants them to accept, like and think!
Around a year and a half back I had posted “Jealousy” about something similar. Even in that I had written about the writers intention should be equated, frequency to frequency; chord by chord, to that of the reader! If the writer is not good with the pen then the difference matters only to him because of his intention. Whether the audience can gauge it or not depends on their skill and knack of judging accurately!
To the reader there might be no difference at all if the characters are not flamboyantly different and above the strict ordinary. If the characters are just made the centre of the story by not giving it any new edge or brilliance with such singularity that has not been seen or heard then the reader will definitely not realise the difference between a character-centric story and a Situation-centric story. But its the writer I’m talking about!
Its the writers intention of writing that I’m talking about! If I happen to write a book after some years and i get a chance to write another…then another i’ll really try this out! To create my characters before hand, to hand over their responsibilities clearly before hand and then, only then, do I think how to sew them together!
As I write this I suddenly am reminded of Aamir Khan’s Dhobi Ghat. Brilliant movie. See, that’s what i’m talking about! It doesn’t get better than that. What characters! The story is running in the back ground like a soft hum of the rotor blades of a magnificent Jet. It’s presence cannot be ignored but the Jet is what is MORE important. Each and every character speaks loud and clear! Each and every character has Life and a Soul! When you See that movie you don’t see the story… you Hear the characters!
A writer’s job is to tell people what he thinks. Its a responsible job being a writer. Personally speaking writers are meant to be rebellious. They’re NOT here to let the audience draw their own conclusions. They’re here to tell us what THEY think. Agreeing or not is a separate thing all together!
Give me the power of the Pen… and I’ll give up the sword with pride!
PS: Photograph by Jayesh Rawal, our very own in-house photographer:-)